I wouldn’t necessarily consider nuts to be diet food, but recent research does suggest that consuming them daily could help you reduce the risk of gaining weight over the years. While that’s not the same as helping you lose weight, it is likely welcome news for people who shun nuts because of their calories. A second recent study found that eating Brazil nuts can increase a sense of fullness, reduce hunger and improve blood glucose and insulin responses, changes that might help prevent diabetes and weight gain.
In the first study, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tracked thousands of health professionals, including 25,394 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 53,541 women in the Nurse’s Health Study and 47,255 women in the Nurse’s Health Study II. None had any chronic diseases when the study began. Every four years these individuals responded to a food frequency questionnaire which asked about nut consumption. Results showed that, over time, eating one one-ounce serving of any type of nuts or peanuts daily instead OF low-quality foods like potato chips, desserts, French fries or red or processed meats was linked to a lower risk of gaining weight and becoming obese.
Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D., first author of the study, noted that once people become adults, they begin to gain about one pound a year, which can add up to a lot of excess weight. By adding an ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods, she said you might be able to prevent the weight gain and reduce your risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases.
The study focused on Brazil nuts compared them to pretzels, which contain about the same number of calories and sodium. This research, from San Diego State University, sought to determine how eating these two foods would affect hunger, a sense of feeling full as well as glucose and insulin responses. Participants included 20 women and two men, age 20 or older, who were healthy and not overweight. The study group consumed either 36 grams (about 1.3 ounces) of pretzels or 20 grams of Brazil nuts (about 5 nuts) in addition to their usual foods. They did this twice with a 48-hour break in between.
Results showed that both the nuts and the pretzels tamped down hunger and increased a sense of fullness, but eating pretzels caused a significant increase in blood glucose and insulin 40 minutes later. No such changes occurred as a result of eating Brazil nuts, which are high in selenium, a trace mineral that has been linked with improvements in insulin and glucose responses. These findings suggest that consuming Brazil nuts might help prevent weight gain and diabetes according to study senior author Mee Young Hong, Ph.D. However, since most of the study participants were women, she said the findings couldn’t be generalized to men.
If these preliminary findings hold up over time, consuming nuts instead of less healthful foods may help you keep your weight in check as long as you don’t go overboard and eat more than one one-ounce serving daily. Here’s where you can learn more about the health benefits of nuts, in addition to my recommendations for storing them safely.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
American Heart Association, “Nuts for nuts? Daily serving may help control weight and benefit health,” Scientific presentations, November 10, 2018, American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, Chicago, IL.